Environmental planners and land managers have attended a series of workshops designed to enhance the awareness of Aboriginal sites and cultural places.

Southern Cross University School of Environmental Science and Management lecturers Bill Boyd and David Lloyd, along with Bundjalung Elder Bill Walker and project officer Kristin Den Exter, have recently run the Aboriginal Site Awareness Training Workshops on behalf of the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (NRCMA).

More than 50 local planners and other land managers attended sessions in Ballina and Yamba and interest was received from as far away as the Illawarra.

“Cultural heritage is an important part of our environment,” Professor Boyd said.

“Despite legal obligations to respect places of Aboriginal importance, many planners and land managers are still relatively unaware of their obligations.

“By building awareness, we can improve the role environmental planners play in protecting and respecting Aboriginal places.”

The NRCMA’s catchment co-ordinator, Peter Boyd, said: “The CMA is concerned that all environmental managers understand both their legal and cultural obligations with regards to Aboriginal places. The university is well placed to help us develop the region’s professional skills.”

Workshop participants explored aspects of their own personal cultural heritage, and were able to draw parallels with their own non-Aboriginal experience and that of Aboriginal communities.

“Participants came up with some very interesting examples of their own cultural heritage,” said David Lloyd.

“This opened their minds to the diversity of places and objects that Aboriginal people value, and helped them move away from the old ‘bones and stones’ version of cultural heritage.”

Participants were assisted in developing their awareness by Uncle Bill Walker, who described Aboriginal perspectives on environmental management in the Northern Rivers.

The workshop also introduced the Australian Heritage Commission’s publication, Ask First: A guide to respecting Indigenous heritage places and values, to participants.

“Ask First was the most important document participants took home,” said Professor Boyd. “It provided all environmental managers with best practice in working with Aboriginal places and communities.”

Other joint SCU/NRCMA community-based environmental management projects include the Bundjalung Mapping Project and the Living and Working in Rural Areas Project. Further details of these projects may be obtained from Bill Boyd (william.boyd@scu.edu.au) and David Lloyd (david.lloyd@scu.edu.au).

PICTURE: Bundjalung Elder Bill Walker (standing) and Professor Bill Boyd at the Aboriginal Site Awareness Training Workshop held in Yamba on behalf of the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority (NRCMA).